Another linebacker, and another Jersey recruit, picks Penn State

First, Penn State rallied late to beat Rutgers in prime time, in their Big Ten debut.

The next day they grabbed yet another recruit from the Scarlet Knights’ back yard. That means James Franklin and his staff now have that extra linebacker recruit they really wanted.

James Franklin just won another New Jersey recruiting battle ... and stocked up Linebacker U. in the process.

James Franklin just won another New Jersey recruiting battle … and stocked up Linebacker U. in the process.

The Nittany Lions’ 20th member of their of their 2015 recruiting class – and their seventh member from New Jersey — is versatile athlete Daiquan Kelly, whose college future appears to be on defense.

Kelly is a three-star prospect in most national recruiting rankings but possesses even more upside, said Brian Dohn, an analyst with Scout.com. He was a verbal commit to Syracuse before immediately switching to Penn State on Sunday after getting word of a scholarship offer from Franklin.

Kelly is 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds and expects to play a hybrid outside linebacker/safety role at Penn State. He also has the ability to play wide receiver at the next level.

He is a teammate of fellow Penn State recruit Steven Gonzalez, a three-star offensive lineman from Union City, N.J. Franklin now has just as many Jersey recruits in this class as he does from Pennsylvania.

“He runs well, he’s long and he changes direction well,” Dohn said of Kelly. “He competes very hard. He’s what Penn State wants in their star position … which does a bunch of different things.”

Though Kelly committed early to Syracuse, he’s always had the Nittany Lions on his radar — he just didn’t have an offer until after they won and then returned home from the Garden State. He did catch the eye of coaches this summer when he camped in State College.

The only other outside linebacker the Lions have in this class is New Jersey’s Manny Bowen. Their sole middle linebacker recruit is Jake Cooper from Archbishop Wood High.

And there weren’t many other linebackers, if any, who the Lions had realistic shots of landing before national signing day in February, said Greg Pickel, an analyst with FightOnState.com.

“I think they just need an upgrade in talent across the board,” Dohn said. “They just need more depth and more competition and better athletes … and I think (Kelly) fits in that. He’s kid who could play three positions.”

Despite last week’s announcement that the NCAA is lessening sanctions and giving back more scholarships to Penn State, there’s no guarantee the Lions can or will bring in a full allotment of 25 recruits in this class. They still must work around a team limit of 85 scholarship players.

Moving forward, the Lions are still awaiting word on high-profile recruits such as in Pittsburgh-area cornerback Jordan Whitehead, defensive lineman Tim Settle and offensive lineman Matthew Burrell, both from Virginia.

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